10 Best Charcoal Types For Smoking Meat (2024 Update)

Timothy Woods
Published by Timothy Woods
Last Updated On: February 14, 2024

Not all lump charcoal for smoking is created equal, and some of it even has the potential to harm your health with dangerous chemical additives. We’re going to cover what you want to look for in the best charcoal types for smoking meats then list the top ten options we’ve personally tested.

The Best Charcoal Types For Smoking Meat

The 10 Top Charcoal Types For Smoking Meats

1

1 - Jealous Devil All Natural Hardwood Lump Charcoal (Best Overall & With Less Ash)

Rated 4.9/5
Jealous Devil hardwood charcoal for smokers and grills
4.8
Price
5.0
Ease of Use
5.0
Performance
5.0
Size
4.9
User Ratings
Pros
  • Easy to light
  • Less ash than standard lump charcoal
  • Produces consistent heat
  • Burns longer when cooking
  • Best lump charcoal we tested
Cons
  • No cons

Who is it for?

Who is it for?

  • Perfect for BBQ enthusiasts who need a reliable, long-lasting charcoal.

Who is it not for?

  • Not ideal for those looking for quick, easy-to-light charcoal.

Final Verdict

This charcoal is an excellent choice for anyone who takes their BBQ seriously and values a high-quality, long-lasting product. The low ash production is a significant benefit for a cleaner grilling experience.

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Jealous Devil is made from 100% hardwood, which gives it a longer burn of 7000 cal/g of energy. We like how it doesn't give out sparks, pops, or snaps when lighting.

This may be the most interesting type of premium-quality lump charcoal for smoking that we came across when doing our research, as these are more on the denser side.

It's suitable for outdoor cookouts as it's easy to light, whether by the best charcoal starter or charcoal chimney starter.

The lump charcoal also gives off a distinct woody flavor that deliciously enhances the taste of our meats.

2

2 - FOGO Premium Hardwood Lump Charcoal

Rated 4.8/5
fogo lump charcoal
4.7
Price
4.8
Ease of Use
4.9
Performance
4.8
Size
4.7
User Ratings
Pros
  • Ready to use in fifteen minutes
  • 17.6 lbs in each bag (3.44 kilograms)
  • Long burn time for grilling
  • 100% natural lump charcoal
Cons
  • Not center-cut wood

Who is it for?

Who is it for?

  • Ideal for grillers who want premium quality and easy lighting charcoal.

Who is it not for?

  • Not suited for those who prefer briquettes or need smaller bags.

Final Verdict

FOGO Premium Hardwood Lump Charcoal is a top-tier option for grillers seeking high-quality, easy-to-use charcoal that delivers excellent performance.

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FOGO Premium is made from 100% hardwood oak trimmings that produce a rich smoke flavor in meats.

There are no additives or bonding agents used, and each lump of charcoal is capable of longer burning times and maintaining cooking temperatures.

The manufacturer notes that this lump charcoal has a quick ready-to-use time, allowing you to start cooking in just 15 minutes after you light it.

3

3 - Bradley Smoker Bisquettes, Mesquite (For Best-Tasting Meat)

Rated 4.7/5
Bradley smoker bisquettes
4.6
Price
4.7
Ease of Use
4.8
Performance
4.8
Size
4.6
User Ratings
Pros
  • Provides a rich smoked flavor
  • Good for slow cooking food
  • Best for smoking with Bradley smokers
  • No additives or impurities
Cons
  • Not good for other smokers

Who is it for?

Who is it for?

  • Best for those who use Bradley Smokers and want strong, smoky flavor for meats.

Who is it not for?

  • Not recommended for those without a Bradley Smoker.

Final Verdict

These bisquettes are perfect for achieving a robust, smoky flavor, especially in beef and pork, with the convenience of consistent burn rates.

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Bradley is a popular maker of the best charcoal for smoking that works, especially with their unique brand of smokers.

These are made from compressed wood chips and are similar to what you might get from a pellet smoker.

These smokers best work with this particular type of bisquette, so it’s essential to get the right fuel type for cooking.

One advantage of these bisquettes is that each burns hotter and can add a unique flavor to your food.

4

4 - IPPINKA Kishu Binchotan BBQ Charcoal, 3lb of Lump Charcoal (Best Reusable)

Rated 4.6/5
Pppinka lump charcoal
4.5
Price
4.6
Ease of Use
4.7
Performance
4.7
Size
4.6
User Ratings
Pros
  • Gives food a rich oak flavor
  • Reusable after first-time use
  • High smoking temperature
  • Long burning and chemical-free
Cons
  • Specific storage requirements

Who is it for?

Who is it for?

  • Ideal for those who want premium, long-lasting charcoal with minimal smoke.

Who is it not for?

  • Not for users who want quick lighting or inexpensive options.

Final Verdict

This is a high-quality, reusable charcoal ideal for serious grillers who appreciate the benefits of traditional Japanese binchotan charcoal.

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IPPINKA is a Japanese manufacturer that specializes in binchotan-style lump charcoal for smoking.

Binchotan is made from Japanese Ubame Oak is a traditional style of charcoal used for hundreds of years in the country.

It’s famous for the rich smoky flavor that it produces and is often used in Japanese food smoke and grilling.

One of the things that we like is you can save the lump charcoal to use later if stored properly. These all-natural lump charcoal burn at a high cooking temperature helping to sear in the meat's natural juices.

5

5 - Bradley Smoker BTHC24 Bisquettes, Hickory (Cheapest & Best for Slow-Smoking)

Rated 4.6/5
Bradley charcoal bisquettes for smokers
4.4
Price
4.6
Ease of Use
4.6
Performance
4.6
Size
4.6
User Ratings
Pros
  • Good for slow smoking meats
  • Each box has 24 bisquettes
  • Hickory flavor infusion
  • Good for pork and other meats
Cons
  • Not good with charcoal grill cooking

Who is it for?

Who is it for?

  • Perfect for Bradley Smoker users who want hickory-flavored smoke for various meats.

Who is it not for?

  • Not ideal for those without a Bradley Smoker.

Final Verdict

These bisquettes are a great option for those looking to add a rich hickory flavor to their smoked meats, with the benefit of clean, consistent smoke production.

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These are the Hickory variety of the Bradley smoking bisquettes.

Hickory can be the best option if you are looking for a great type of hardwood for smoking a wide variety of meats such as briskets, ribs, burgers, and more, hickory can be a good option.

These Bradley Smoker bisquettes are used in Bradley-made smokers and provide a good and consistent temp for slow-smoking meats. Each box comes with 24 bisquettes.

6

6 - Bradley BTAP48 Smoker Bisquettes (Best Natural)

Rated 4.5/5
Bradley smoker bisquettes
4.4
Price
4.5
Ease of Use
4.5
Performance
4.5
Size
4.5
User Ratings
Pros
  • Rich Applewood taste
  • Each box has 48 bisquettes
  • All-natural organic hardwood
  • No additives from binders
Cons
  • For use with Bradley smoking units

Who is it for?

Who is it for?

  • Ideal for Bradley Smoker users seeking a sweet, fruity smoke flavor.

Who is it not for?

  • Not recommended for those who do not use a Bradley Smoker.

Final Verdict

These apple wood bisquettes are perfect for adding a sweet, fruity flavor to your smoked dishes, enhancing the overall smoking experience.

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This is the Applewood version of the Bradley Smoking Unites hardwood chip bisquettes.

This variety is made from compressed hardwood, in this case, Applewood. Applewood can be a good choice if you are going to cook foods such as salmon, pork, and poultry.

These hardwood bisquettes do a good job of infusing smoke into your food without leaving any chemical aftertaste from additives or impurities.

7

7 - Bradley Smoker Caribbean Blend Bisquettes

Rated 4.5/5
Bradley charcoal blend bisquettes for smokers
4.4
Price
4.5
Ease of Use
4.5
Performance
4.5
Size
4.5
User Ratings
Pros
  • Caribbean spice flavored
  • Infuses a rich hardwood taste
  • Completely natural and organic
  • No impurities or additives
Cons
  • For use with Bradley smoking models

Who is it for?

Who is it for?

  • Best for Bradley Smoker users looking for an exotic, Caribbean flavor in their smoked foods.

Who is it not for?

  • Not suitable for those without a Bradley Smoker.

Final Verdict

These bisquettes provide an exotic Caribbean flavor to a variety of dishes, making them a great choice for those looking to experiment with new flavors in their smoking.

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This is another Bradley hardwood bisquette box, this time with a more tropical and Caribbean variety.

These hardwood bisquettes combine mesquite taste with Caribbean allspice, cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, and pepper.

This can be a great choice if you plan on smoking meats such as pork, poultry, or more tropical varieties of fish. These are for use with Bradley Smoking Units.

8

8 - Best of the West Natural Oak Lump Charcoal

Rated 4.4/5
best of the west natural oak lump charcoal
4.3
Price
4.5
Ease of Use
4.5
Performance
4.4
Size
4.4
User Ratings
Pros
  • Completely natural hardwood
  • No additives or fillers
  • Rich oak taste
  • 100% organic lump type charcoal
Cons
  • Small pieces can burn quickly

Who is it for?

Who is it for?

  • Perfect for grillers who prefer oak charcoal for its performance and flavor.

Who is it not for?

  • Not ideal for those who prefer briquettes or other types of wood.

Final Verdict

This oak lump charcoal offers excellent performance with high heat and long burn time, making it a solid choice for any grilling enthusiast.

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Best of the West offers natural oak flavored charcoal lump good for cooking meats such as chicken, pork, burgers, briskets, ribs, and more.

These are quality lump charcoal for smoking that burns clean and is made from 100% pure oak.

There are no additives or fillers for a clean oak hardwood taste.

9

9 - MUXI Portable Grilling Charcoal

muxi bbq ignition charcoal

These are convenient-to-use briquettes that come in an easy-light bag.

The upside of using a briquette type of the best charcoal for smoking is that it generally burns hotter and for an extended period.

One of the things we like about MUXI portable grilling charcoal is that it doesn’t have any lighter ignition fuels or other impurities that can leave a bad flavor in your food.

Each MUXI bag comes with eight pieces of naturally made charcoal.

Pros
  • Won’t leave bad flavor in food
  • Easy starter bag for charcoal grills
  • Long cooking time
  • Made from natural charcoal powder
Cons
  • Less smoked flavor
10

10 - Char-Broil Center Cut Lump Charcoal

Rated 4.4/5
Char Broil center cut lump charcoal for smokers
4.3
Price
4.4
Ease of Use
4.4
Performance
4.4
Size
4.3
User Ratings
Pros
  • Made from 100% real organic hardwood
  • Uniform 3-inch briquette size
  • 3% max ash production
Cons
  • Out of stock most of the time

Who is it for?

Who is it for?

  • Ideal for those who want high-quality, quick-lighting charcoal.

Who is it not for?

  • Not suitable for those needing larger quantities or different wood types.

Final Verdict

This center-cut lump charcoal is a great option for those seeking quick lighting and high heat output for an efficient grilling experience.

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This is a lump charcoal for smoking with a center cut, meaning that it is only made from the core of the main section of trees and not limbs or branches.

The Char-Broil Center Cut Lump charcoal is made from clean-burning 100% hardwood and is entirely organic.

Char-Broil claims to have fired this for a longer period, minimizing unwanted wood sparks or any dirty smoke and ash.

According to the company, this charcoal for smoking not only produces cleaner smoke but can also help keep your smoker cleaner due to very little ash being produced.

Things To Consider When Buying Lump Charcoal or Briquettes

lump and briquette charcoals

Density

The all-natural lump charcoal density will affect everything from how well each piece burns to how evenly it will burn. More dense coals will typically burn for a longer period but may be more difficult to light. When it comes to lump charcoal vs briquettes, briquettes tend to be denser.

Wood

In choosing the best charcoal, the type of real wood that the product is made from affects the flavor of your food. There is no perfect option for all food types, but a general rule to follow when paring charcoal with food is:

  • Hickory - Beef, Pork, Poultry
  • Pecan - Briskets, Ribs, Roast
  • Oak - Lamb, Beef, Pork Sausage
  • Mesquite - Red Meat

There are many other real wood types, but these are some of the most common for cooking. Many lump-type charcoals will be a mixture of different hardwood types.

Related Articles:

Ash

Ash is the byproduct of burning charcoal on the grill. The issue with ash is that if left in your grill for a long, it can cause corrosion. Lump-type charcoal generally produces significantly less ash, which can be beneficial. If you use briquettes, always make sure you are cleaning your grill regularly.

“Ash deposition can significantly aggravate the corrosion of metal.”

 

- Yu Sun, Journal of Chemistry (1)

Absorption Rate

If you choose the best charcoal briquettes, they should be able to easily absorb lighter fluid. You use lighter fluid with briquettes to help them light more efficiently. We advise using a lighter fluid substitute with lump-type charcoal so you don't ruin the flavor.

What types of charcoal can be used with a smoker?

Briquettes

briquette type of charcoal

Briquettes are made from compressed coal or other materials.

These are held together using a binder of some kind such as starch or kaolin (2) and, often, have sodium nitrate or other additives to help them light easier.

This is what people usually think of as charcoal.

Charcoal Briquettes Key Facts:

  • Made from compressed materials
  • Burns longer and more evenly
  • Lights faster

Lump Charcoal

Lump charcoal is created from whole pieces of hardwood. It’s made by slowly burning wood without oxygen until it’s dried out and carbonized. The wood that it comes from ranges from leftover building material to whole pieces of wood from trees. One downside is it takes longer to light.

Lump Charcoal Key Facts:

  • Made from natural wood
  • Burns faster
  • Produces less ash

Read More: Best Lump Charcoals

What to avoid in charcoal?

Flavored Charcoal

Flavored charcoal often uses unnatural chemicals and adds additives to create the bag's smoky flavor (3). This usually refers to cheap hickory or mesquite-flavored briquettes you can buy in stores.

Other Additives

Aside from flavored charcoal, many cheaper lump charcoal brands use fillers and other additives that can potentially cause issues. These range from ignition enhancers making briquettes easy to light to different binders that keep the coals held together.

“Further additives are inorganic fillers which delay the heat release of the burning briquette, and ignition enhancers (sodium nitrate) to make them "easy-lighting."

 

- Walter Emrich, Charcoal Briquettes and Activated Charcoal Manufacturing Guide (4)

How should you store charcoal?

keeping charcoal in a container

Storing lump charcoal properly is essential for maintaining its quality and ensuring that the charcoal burns efficiently when used.

It's important to store your charcoal, whether it's briquettes or lumps, in a location unaffected by outside temperatures and humidity. This implies avoiding storage in a shed or closet, especially in high-humidity areas or where exposure to precipitation like rain or snow is possible.

Charcoal, especially the best charcoal, should remain dry, well-ventilated, and cool.

Many prefer to store charcoal in a sealed bucket, reducing the chance of moisture intrusion and producing very little charcoal dust. An electric charcoal starter can then be used to ignite the charcoal when it's time to cook.

We often suggest storing briquette bags in a garage closet, where they are less susceptible to environmental changes. This way, your charcoal is ready and in optimal condition whenever the need for a barbecue arises.

Proper storage ensures you'll always have great burning charcoal for your grilling needs.

Also Read: Best Charcoal Smokers

FAQs

Is Lump charcoal or briquettes better?

Many people consider lump charcoal to be better than briquettes because of reduced additives and chemical bonding agents. An added advantage is that when using lump charcoal for smoking, you get specific smoke flavors infused with the meat due to lump charcoal being made from particular woods.

Can you add unlit charcoal to a smoker?

Yes. You can add unlit charcoal to a smoker. However, it isn’t advised. The reason is that unlit charcoal can temporarily lower the internal temperature. Instead of adding unlit briquettes or lump charcoal directly, we recommend using the best charcoal chimney starter to prepare the coals before adding them in.

How often should you add charcoal to a smoker?

You typically want to add the best charcoal to your charcoal smoker every few hours. It’s a good idea to closely monitor your smoker's internal temperature every thirty minutes to an hour. If you notice the steady temperature starting to dip, then it’s time to use the chimney and add in new briquettes.

Which Charcoal Is Best For Smokers?

After thoroughly testing the best lump and charcoal, we’ve narrowed down Jealous Devil All Natural Hardwood Lump Charcoal as the best charcoal to use for smoking. It's good for use in a lump charcoal grill, electric smokers, or the best smokers.

The high-quality charcoal burns for a long time compared to some other lump types. It’s also one of the best in terms of wood quality and will burn for a long time at a more steady temperature.

Jealous Devil All Natural Hardwood Lump Charcoal (Best Overall & With Less Ash)

Our #1 Recommendation

  • Easy to light
  • Less ash than standard lump charcoal
  • Produces consistent heat
  • Burns longer when cooking
  • Best lump charcoal we tested
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About the author

Timothy Woods
CEO / Co-Founder
Timothy Woods holds a Kinesiology and Exercise Science degree from Jacksonville University and is CCC & GMU Certified. He's also the main man behind Carnivore Style. This food aficionado combines science and experience to spread the word about the carnivore lifestyle.
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